Guests including family and friends gathered in the shade under the trees at the Riverbank Library while the Ballet Folklorico Viva Mexico dancers lined up on the walkway to perform on April 29. The occasion was Día de los niños/Día de los libros, which is Day of the Child/Day of the Books. The library has been hosting this event for the past several years celebrating with an array of festivities this past Saturday.
Ballet Folklorico Artistic Director Norma Torres-Manriquez along with Assistant Artistic Director Courtney Floyd had two groups of dancers at the celebration that performed four pieces. The boys and girls were in their colorful attire and had smiles on their faces ready to dance the traditional Mexican folk dances for the crowd. The dances performed were El Cerro de la Silla from the state of Nuevo Leon, El Sauz y La Palma from the state of Sinaloa, El Sinaloense from the state of Sinaloa, and Las Alazanas from the state of Jalisco.
After 16 years of learning the traditional Mexican dance under the direction of Manriquez, Floyd is now teaching the class on Monday nights. Manriquez will stop by and assist and eventually has plans to retire after creating the group 17 years ago.
“I fell in love with it really early and I just enjoy dancing,” said Floyd. “I like getting to pass it on to the kids and seeing some of their faces light up when they learn something and get a step down. It is really fun. Then it is really cool because I get to teach the dances that I learned and watch them grow up with them like I did.”
This type of traditional dance has been passed down for centuries which started out originally as a courtship.
“It makes me feel excited that I can retire and that it will keep going,” added Manriquez. “That is what we set out to do when we started 17 years ago is to make sure that we got the tradition to stay here and keep going and for them to have a love for it.”
In the beginning there were not very many troupes in the area so kids would travel to Riverbank to learn the dances. Currently there are over 20 students in the class that come from around the area with the majority being from Riverbank.
Classes are held on Mondays at the Riverbank Community Center, 3600 Santa Fe starting at 5:45 p.m. for beginners, 6:30 p.m. for beginners starting at age 8, and for advanced students at 7:30 p.m. The class follows the school year schedule. The troupe is off for the summer.
For more information call 209-863-7153.
The group no longer competes, however, they will be having a recital on Friday, May 5 at 7 p.m. at the Del Rio Plaza in Riverbank in observance of Cinco de Mayo.
“My favorite part right now about teaching and dancing at the same time is getting to dance the songs that I know and love and then getting to watch other kids dance it,” said Floyd. “I have always just loved performing and dancing and I have always shared it with my friends.”
Families that participated in the Saturday events at the library also enjoyed a special bilingual Story Time, crafts, and activities.